Many tears were shed, and hugs were given, and people gave affirmations to each other that everything will be all right, as a vigil was held in the UWM Union concourse on Thursday Oct. 12 to unite for those who are impacted by the natural disasters in Mexico and Puerto Rico.
For many UWM students, these disasters hit close to home. The recovery from these natural disasters in Puerto Rico and Mexico still is unfolding, and they are in a crisis state.
This vigil gave hope to the many students and faculty who care about what’s happening in those countries. UWM’S Latino Student Union and Multicultural Greek Council joined together for this vigil to bring awareness and support on issues happening in Puerto Rico and Mexico. The group united together as a campus community and city.
Claudia Galván, a junior at UWM and member of the UWM’S Multicultural Greek Council said this event was to “unite” Puerto Rico and Mexico.
“This has affected us personally. I know that a lot of our students who are Puerto Ricans are personally affected… and in Mexico there were some students who were affected, some people who lost some family members and some people who completely lost everything in both countries.” Galván said.
The vigil collected money donation from the public with proceeds going directly to the victims in Mexico and Puerto Rico.
In September, natural catastrophes hit Mexico and Puerto Rico. On Sept. 19, an earthquake with the magnitude of 8.1 touched down in Mexico, leaving a now estimated 228 people dead, and many people trying to pick up the pieces. On Sep 20, category 5 Hurricane Maria landed on Puerto Rico, stripping the country from almost all resources.
When Hurricane Maria reached Puerto Rico, it left most of Puerto Rico with no electrical power, which caused limited to no contact withr loved ones, limited access to water and other essential resources.
This story hits close to home for Dianne Morales, a pre-med student at UWM, who self-identifies as an Afro-Latino Puerto Rican, and who said, “I am directly and even indirectly affected. I have friends that are over there; my biological mother lives in Puerto Rico and just all of my family, practically everyone is over there.”
President Donald Trump and his administration were recently criticized for what some believe is their lack of urgency for recovery in Puerto Rico. He recently had throw paper towels into crowds at relief center in Puerto Rico and recently made insensitive tweets about Puerto Rico, upsetting the community.
“The coverage was inefficient beforehand, and now it’s even more assaulting…I’m not a fan of the coverage at all. “said Morales.
Recovery is still needed in Mexico and Puerto Rico, but in Puerto Rico, due to the lack of aid, many residents clean the debris from the Hurricane by hand.
“My relatives literally have to go outside and clean up by themselves; they do them by themselves,” said Morales, adding that it’s the same with everyone else, and people have to clean the roads on their own.”
The narrative is similar in Mexico for many victims of the Earthquake still haven’t received financial assistance.
“Just the treatment of the people and comments of the Presidency. It’s like we don’t matter.”
That’s Leilani Lopez, a Milwaukee native Puerto Rican and Community organizer and self-proclaimed “Artvist,” who said that many communities across to the United States had to come together and bring donations and assistance to Puerto Rico due to lack urgency from US administration.
According to Lopez, local communities and individual efforts have been some of the key drivers in giving aid to Puerto Rico.
Lopez’s sister is currently in Puerto Rico. She gives daily water bottles to the locals who haven’t received aid. Lopez said it has been neighbors helping neighbors, and the rural town where her family is from just received federal aid this week. She said most of the South and West parts of the country still haven’t been helped.
Puerto Rico has been U.S. territory since 1898 after the Spanish War, which means people who are born in Puerto Rico are US Citizens.
“The island daily life is no more; the entire island, you can’t make money, you don’t eat, you can’t get gas, you want go to the bank, but you have to stand in line for like four hours…people still have flash flooding because they don’t have any roofs; diabetes patents are dying because they can’t get dialysis,” said Lopez.
For Puerto Rico and Mexico, it’s going to be long road to get back to normal life.
As many students from UWM and the city of Milwaukee continue to grieve, there’s still is a strong hope for recovery and strength within the people affected in México and Puerto Rico.
For UWM students directly impacted from the catastrophes in Mexico and Puerto Rico, there are resources on campus at the Roberto Hernandez Center (RHC) located in the first floor in UWM’s Bolton Hall for assistance. The center is also collecting direct relief donations, call the RHC for more details.